Skip to main content

As virus surges, GOP leaders pitch Open Up Minnesota plan to voters

Sen. Paul Gazelka and Rep. Kurt Daudt were among those who launched the drive on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.

In an effort to woo voters and win control of the Minnesota Legislature, Republican leaders on Monday announced a "Contract to Open Minnesota."

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, pledged to loosen Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 restrictions if voters give them the majority in the House and help them retain their majority in the Senate. 

“We trust the people of Minnesota to keep safe and keep others safe,” Gazelka said Monday in a news conference announcing the contract, according to the Star Tribune.

The contract includes:

"Every one of these we believe we can do safely," Gazelka said, according to KSTP. "But as we think about it, think about the fact we now trust Minnesotans to look at the data, look at the science, follow the CDC guidelines and live their lives in all these different areas."

This comes as the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Minnesota are rising, and the number of cases in Minnesota's schools climbs, forcing some schools to switch back to full distance learning.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday reported 1,632 new positive cases of COVID-19 and five more people dying, bringing the total number of positive cases to 124,439 and 2,239 deaths.

While the contract lists things Republicans believe should be reopened further, it doesn't offer anything for COVID-19 mitigation This is in line with how the GOP has previously said they'd respond to the virus, with Gazelka saying there wouldn't be a mask mandate, testing would focus on long-term care facilities, and there wouldn't be limits on crowd sizes, among other things, the Star Tribune reported.

Republicans have stressed that we're no longer in an emergency and have been pushing to end Gov. Walz's emergency powers for months, previously pointing to states like Wisconsin as an example of how to respond to the virus without executive orders and placing restrictions on businesses.

Wisconsin, though, is now grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in what's being called the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country. And political science experts say the state's politics are partly to blame – the Republicans control the legislature and have continued to block Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' measures aimed at containing the virus

Walz's initial response to the Republican's proposed contract was, “Maybe they found the cure for COVID while I was gone down here," he said while touring a farm to announce federal COVID-19 aid for farmers, according to WCCO. The governor added that he doesn't want to see what happened in Wisconsin where an overflow hospital has been set up on the state fairgrounds.

A later statement from the governor's office to WCCO said he'll work with anyone to fight the virus, but abandoning safety precautions isn't the right way to go. Here's the full statement:

"Gov. Walz ​will work with anyone to fight the virus, including Republicans in the state legislature. But as COVID-19 deaths continue to climb, he encourages them to take the pandemic seriously. A one-page plan to abandon all safety precautions is not a serious strategy to slow the spread or rebuild the economy."

Meanwhile, the Minnesota DFL Party is slamming Republicans for their plan that would allow businesses to reopen without any capacity restrictions, social distancing or masking requirements. Here's the statement from DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin:

“Make no mistake, the Minnesota Republican Party’s plan to entirely ignore COVID-19 is going to get people killed. Republican leaders like Donald Trump, Paul Gazelka, Kurt Daudt, and Jennifer Carnahan have already exposed Minnesotans to COVID-19 through their reckless campaigning and this plan will only make things worse.

“Today’s (Monday's) announcement amounts to little more than a contract on Minnesota. If Republicans win in 15 days, COVID-19 cases will spike, hospitals will be overwhelmed, and more Minnesotans will lose their lives to the coronavirus. This is the last thing Minnesota voters want, especially at a time when cases are already spiking across our state.”

Next Up

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Charges: Driver threw 'large rocks' at police car during highway chase

Authorities say the suspect had used methamphetamine earlier in the day.

covid, coronavirus

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, January 21

Hospitalizations dipped from 1,629 Jan. 19 to 1,571 on Jan. 20.

minneapolis police

Shooting near University of Minnesota kills 1, injures 2

The victims were all in a parked car when the shooting happened, police said.

canada bodies found 2

Florida man charged with human smuggling after 4 die, 5 rescued near border

A baby and an teenage boy were among those who were found dead feet from the U.S. border.

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 8.42.40 AM

Man shot while driving on I-394 in St. Louis Park

The driver and his bullet-riddled SUV wound up outside the DoubleTree hotel in St. Louis Park.

Mall of America

Mall of America to celebrate 30 years with events, giveaways throughout 2022

The festivities will kick off Friday with a '90s-themed drag show.

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 7.29.00 AM

Victim of 1994 Michigan cold case murder ID'd as missing Minnesotan

Shelley Rae Kephart went missing from Hennepin County more than 28 years ago.

Mike Zimmer

Coller: Did the Vikings wait too long to fire Zimmer, Spielman?

This wasn’t just ugly. This was ugly, ugly.

walz flanagan lorie shaull flickr

Gov. proposes 'Walz Checks' for most Minnesotans

The governor wants to use $700 million of the state's surplus to fund the payments.

Hutch crash booking photo

Walz, Flanagan call on Hennepin Co. sheriff to resign

"I would say that it is time for him to resign," the Lt. Gov. said.

line 3 enbridge portage lake hubbard county mn tony webster flickr

Months after missing deadline, Enbridge says Line 3 aquifer breach is fixed

The company told Bring Me The News it "successfully stopped the flow of groundwater" at the site.


Screen Shot 2020-07-26 at 7.36.36 AM

Minnesota GOP criticized over pictures of mask-less attendees at party event

Party leaders including Paul Gazelka and Kurt Daudt, and congressmen Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn were in attendance.

gazelka paul

Coronavirus: MN GOP leaders criticize Gov. Walz's 'Stay at Home' order

GOP leadership has been critical of the order, while some healthcare and business officials praised the response.

State Capitol

Elections 2020: Control of Minnesota's divided Legislature is up for grabs

Redistricting and responding to COVID-19 are among the issues the new legislature will have to deal with.

jennifer carnahan

Minnesota GOP cancels Monday event due to members self-quarantining

The event was a party update featuring chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan.

coronavirus, COVID-19 test

COVID-19: Minnesota planning rapid testing for young adults

Health officials are in the planning stages of launching a rapid testing option for 18 to 35 year olds.

State Capitol.

'Disgusting': DFL senators say GOP failed to disclose COVID-19 outbreak

Dems say "NO ONE in the DFL nor non-partisan staff was told."

mary franson without mask

'A virus is going to virus': Unmasked GOP lawmaker rails against COVID-19 measures

Rep. Mary Franson on Monday called for an end to the governor's powers, questioning things like the statewide mask mandate.